Electric Fields, an immersive audio-visual installation, is the result of my work as the Composer-in-Residence at the Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Electric Fields has been developed in collaboration with neuroscientist Alexander Khalil and media artist John Burnett. The work draws its materials and inspiration from experiments with neuronal feedback and sonification, novel methods of sound diffusion and projection mapping.
Alexander Khalil and I have been exploring a number of different methods of converting brainwaves to sound, a process referred to as “sonification”. Brainwaves already feature many of the characteristics of soundwaves and, once recorded and stored digitally, can readily be rendered as sound. Many of the most easily recorded brain activity, however—and most of the brainwaves that are studied scientifically—are of frequencies below the range of human hearing. Through a process of speeding up and then stretching these oscillations, we have been able to make them audible, revealing a rich and nuanced sonic world.
In its final presentation, Electric Fields transforms the gallery into an abstracted multidimensional neuronal network. The audience encounters a mesh of suspended interlaced fabrics, masking the room’s actual dimension and immersing the viewer in the work. The video material consists of neural imagery, filigree and organically shaped drawings, and pointillist textures designed by John Burnett. The sound diffusion consists of a multichannel audio system combining both near and far field sonification. The sound texture generated from the study is projected through far field spatialization; the beam forming technology however, picks up specifically on the auditory stream segregation. In the correct listening position, the audience perceives sound objects swirling closely around their head that are directly pulled from the general sound texture that is heard simultaneously.